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133 reviews/ratings
SOEN - Imperial Progressive Metal | review permalink
EVERGREY - In Search of Truth Progressive Metal | review permalink
CRADLE OF FILTH - Dusk and Her Embrace Symphonic Black Metal | review permalink
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY - Velvet Darkness They Fear Gothic Metal | review permalink
SUBTERRANEAN MASQUERADE - Mountain Fever Progressive Metal | review permalink
DOLD VORDE ENS NAVN - Mørkere Black Metal | review permalink
MY DYING BRIDE - The Dreadful Hours Death-Doom Metal | review permalink
STAR ONE - Revel In Time Progressive Metal | review permalink
GREEN CARNATION - Light of Day, Day of Darkness Progressive Metal | review permalink
MOTORPSYCHO - The All is One Non-Metal | review permalink
TRANSATLANTIC - The Absolute Universe - The Breath of Life Metal Related | review permalink
IOTUNN - Access All Worlds Progressive Metal | review permalink
BALANCE OF POWER - Perfect Balance Heavy Metal | review permalink
SILENTIUM - Infinita Plango Vulnera Gothic Metal | review permalink
TRISTANIA - World of Glass Gothic Metal | review permalink
THE SINS OF THY BELOVED - Lake of Sorrow Gothic Metal | review permalink
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY - Last Curtain Call Gothic Metal | review permalink
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY - Assembly Non-Metal | review permalink
THEATRE OF TRAGEDY - Aégis Gothic Metal | review permalink
TRANSATLANTIC - Bridge Across Forever Metal Related | review permalink

See all reviews/ratings

Metal Genre Nb. Rated Avg. rating
1 Progressive Metal 35 3.19
2 Gothic Metal 28 3.23
3 Power Metal 16 2.84
4 Metal Related 9 3.50
5 Non-Metal 7 2.93
6 Doom Metal 5 3.00
7 Hard Rock 5 2.80
8 Black Metal 4 3.38
9 Death-Doom Metal 3 3.67
10 Heavy Metal 3 3.17
11 Neoclassical metal 3 3.00
12 Symphonic Black Metal 3 3.50
13 Symphonic Metal 3 3.17
14 Melodic Black Metal 2 2.50
15 Melodic Death Metal 1 3.00
16 Glam Metal 1 2.00
17 Heavy Psych 1 3.50
18 Alternative Metal 1 3.50
19 Death 'n' Roll 1 2.50
20 Technical Thrash Metal 1 4.00
21 Viking Metal 1 4.00

Latest Albums Reviews

THERION Secret of the Runes

Album · 2001 · Symphonic Metal
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Just one year after releasing a solid but somewhat lacklustre album like Deggial, Therion are back with what many consider the high point of their whole discography: Secret of the Runes. A concept album centred around the nine worlds of Norse mythology, Runes is a massive step-up relative to the band’s previous releases, which improves and expands their blend of symphonic metal in multiple directions. There are a number of reasons for this advancement.

First, Therion are now a proper band rather than a solo project by Christofer Johnsson. Brothers Johan and Kristian Niemann (bass and guitar, respectively) and drummer Sami Karppinen had joined Johnsson already for the recording of Deggial in 2000. Although on Runes Johnsson retains control of most of the songwriting and arrangements, there are contributions from the other band members too (Kristian Niemann is credited as co-writer of the opening track “Ginnungagap”) and, more generally, one gets the feeling that the ensemble now sounds more like a band, with more nuanced and personalized arrangements for the rock instruments and more freedom in terms of performances (more guitar solos, more drum fills). In short, there is more depth to the band’s performance than on the preceding couple of albums (Vovin, Deggial), which were instead largely a Christofer Johnsson solo affair.

Second, the sound production has also improved on this album. This may sound strange since, for the recording of Runes, Therion actually transitioned from the famous Woodhouse Studios, where they had worked with renowned engineer and producer Siggi Bemm, to their very own, newly built Modern Art Studios, where they instead relied on in-house engineering (Karppinen, K. Niemann, Johnsson) and production. Mixing and mastering duties were instead assigned to Mikko Karmila and Mika Jussila (Amorphis, Childreon of Bodom, Nightwish, among many others). The album sounds much better than Vovin or Deggial, which were both recorded and produced at Woodhouse Studios. One difference between these albums is that on Runes the drum sound is lighter and drier and the drums are placed further back in the mix, so that they are less “in-your-face”. This is great because Therion’s songs often rely on simple grooves, which can make the music feel sluggish and undynamic when the drums dominate the mix. The arrangements are also airier and more spacious, which contributes to make Runes an easier and more immediately likeable album than the dark and oppressive Deggial or the occasionally rigid Vovin.

Ultimately, though, the superiority of Runes comes down to better, more inspired songwriting. The songs are varied and dynamic, moving between different sections and moods. This is a major improvement over previous albums, where often the same riffs were repeated over and over, making the songs feel monolithic and static. The vocal arrangements are also more varied. In some songs, Johnsson wrote counterpoint and multipart vocals melodies (“Jotunheim”; “Nifelheim”), and in general I get the feeling that more attention has been paid to the alternation between male and female vocals that in many occasions engage in playful duets (“Asgard”). Most importantly, the signers are finally given vocal melodies that are catchy and memorable. This is a huge difference relative to many of the songs that were recorded for Deggial, where the vocal parts were particularly lacklustre. Songs like “Ginnugagap”, “Midgard” and “Asgard” feature some of the best melodies that Johnsson has written up to this point in his career. Some may miss the fact that on Runes Johnsson ended the tradition of writing songs with metal vocals mixed with the opera singing (the whole of Theli was built this way, as well as “The Wild Hunt” and “Flesh of the Gods” on Vovin and Deggial). Personally, I do not find this to be a problem, especially when the operatic vocals are given such quality melodies to sing.

There are many other aspects of the music and concept that contribute to make Runes a special album. The Norse mythology that inspired the concept of the album also influenced the songwriting, which features subtle but decisive folk influences on several tracks. The whole album has almost a Viking metal feel to it, with its icy atmospheres and at time raw choirs (“Nifelheim”). The use of different languages, including Johnsson’s native Swedish, also contributes to the Nordic folk atmosphere of the album. Somewhat incongruently with the album’s theme, Runes also contain two covers as bonus tracks, “Crying Days” by Scorpions and “Summernight City” by Abba. These tracks were recorded in 1999 with former Therion’s drummer and singer Piotr Wawrzeniuk on vocals alongside the opera singers. Some people are disturbed by the fact that the inclusion of the two covers disrupts the concept of the album. I can see where they are coming from, but the two songs are objectively so good that I cannot help but be grateful for their inclusion on the album.

Despite all the great things one can hear on Runes, the album is not perfect. Its middle part tends to plod a little, with songs like “Schwarzalbenheim” and “Ljusalfheim” coming across as a tad too repetitive and uninventive. Part of the problem is that most songs on the album remain firmly in mid-tempo territory, which amplifies the sluggish feeling one has as soon as the quality drops a little. Sometimes I wish Johnsson would make more use of different tempos on his albums, to inject some dynamics and a sense of moving forward to the music which is sometimes lacking on Therion’s records. However, despite the somewhat weaker mid-section, the album is quick to recover, with tracks like “Muspelheim”, “Nifelheim” and “Helheim” providing stunning highlights, together with the opening trio of songs (“Ginnugagap”, “Midgard” and “Asgard”).

In conclusion, Secret of the Runes is one of the best albums in Therion’s catalogue. If you are new to this band, this could be a great place to start (together with the breakthrough album Theli, of course). By the time this album was released, Christofer Johnsson had time to refine and perfect his skills at arranging songs that combine metal, classical music and operatic singing, and this clearly shows on the album. The vocal parts are catchy and memorable. The orchestral arrangements are merged seamlessly with the metal parts. The metal parts themselves are more dynamic than on previous albums, with richer and more accomplished performances by guitar, drums and keyboards. Add a touch of Nordic folk, and you have a nearly perfect album indeed!


Album · 2001 · Heavy Metal
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The turn of the new millennium marked a stark change in sound for shock rock / hard rock maestro Alice Cooper. In 2000 he released a heavy, industrial metal/rock record, Brutal Planet, which received mixed responses from public and critics, and was even dubbed as a paradoxical and not-so-subtle attempt to follow the footsteps of his creative grandchild (at least as far as shocking image goes), Marilyn Manson. Released only one year later, Dragontown continues in a similar direction as it predecessor, albeit also looking back to a more classic Alice Cooper sound. The return of Alice’s veteran producer Bob Ezrin may or may not have had something to do with it. Regardless, Dragontown strikes a better balance than Brutal Planet between Alice’s newly-found modernist proclivity and the rest of his discography, and is as a consequence less of a disaster compared to his 2000’s album.

Having said that, Dragontown remains a flawed affair and ranks fairly low in Cooper’s discography. The best material is concentrated in the first half of the record. Songs like “Triggerman”, “Dragontown”, “Sex, Death & Money” and “Fantasy Man” lie at the crossroad between heavy, industrial metal and classic hard rock. Crunchy guitars and groovy drum patterns complement Alice’s raspy voice and characteristic phrasing. It’s an entertaining and mildly interesting hybrid that stretches the reaches of Alice’s music into the new millennium, without dispensing with its sonic heritage

The second half of the disc is remarkably worse. It is filled with cringeworthy ideas, such as the Elvis’ impersonation on “Disgraceland” or the rapped singing on “Sister Sara”. Meanwhile, “Every Woman Has a Name” is a 70s-infused ballad and the record’s last three songs go back to the mixture of industrial and classic hard rock, but in a very bland and unremarkable way. There is a palpable lack of cohesion among these songs, which inevitably reduces the listening value of the whole album.

Overall, although not totally unlistenable like Brutal Planet, Dragontown is hardly a return to form for Alice Cooper. The album’s material is slightly more interesting and finds a better footing between the “new” and “old” Alice Cooper sound. However, the fact that all of the songs included on this record will cease to appear in live sets shortly after the release of the album, says a lot about its quality and overall positioning within Alice Cooper’s sprawling discography.

BEYOND TWILIGHT The Devil's Hall of Fame

Album · 2001 · Progressive Metal
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When his previous band, power metal act Twilight folded, Danish keyboard player Finn Zierler embarked in a new project, aptly named Beyond Twilight to mark a sort of continuity between the two bands. In fact, Beyond Twilight begin where Twilight ended: Zierler’s new creature takes the power metal epicness of his former band and morphs it into a dark, progressive beast that may draw parallels with acts like Kamelot and Evergrey for the brooding, theatrical nature of the music on display. If you are however expecting a minor record that follows the footsteps of the aforementioned more well-known acts – think again: The Devil’s Hall of Fame is a stunning masterpiece that vastly surpasses most releases in the dark progressive/power metal genre. Here is why.

First of all, Beyond Twilight’s line-up on this release can count on one of the most formidable singers in metal: His Majesty Jørn Lande. Here at the beginning of his lustrous career, the Norwegian vocalist combines the grit and power of Ronnie James Dio with the soulful delivery of David Coverdale. His performance on The Devil’s Hall of Fame is absolutely spectacular, injecting power and feeling into beautiful vocal melodies that are catchy and instantly memorable, but never banal or boring. The rest of the lineup is also very solid. Bassist Anders Lindgren and drummer Tomas Fredén, who had already played on Twilight’s debut album, provide a reliable backbone that strikes the right balance between simple groove and intricate playing. Anders Kragh is a skilled and versatile guitarist who adapts his playing to suit the different needs of the music, from muscular no-frills riffs, to subtle melodic leads, to tricky technical passages and blazing solos (“Hellfire”). Beyond Twilight’s mastermind Finn Zierler is also a very proficient player. I particularly enjoy the wide range of keyboard sounds and samples he employs on the album, and the use he makes of the instrument – always very imaginative and inventive.

Strong musicianship counts for little without strong compositions. Fortunately, this album has both. Its eight tracks are exceptional examples of how to write keyboard-driven prog metal that is not just all technical twiddly bits and intricate songwriting, but also has feeling and depth. The intricacies of prog are certainly there, as most songs follow feature frequent tempo changes, plenty of instrumental detours, unusual melodic solutions (the suddenly uplifting second part of the chorus in “Shadowland”), and unexpected turns (the extravagant Latin choirs in the title-track and “Perfect Dark”). But each song is also cleverly anchored in excellent melodic ideas that hook you in and make the music immediately enjoyable and memorable. Credit here goes to both Zierler who composed and arranged all music, and Lande, who wrote the vocal melodies. I also dig the overall mood of the album, dark and ominous. It is a perfect match for the dystopian sci-fi concept that runs through the record, about a man who travels through the depths of his own mind and slowly loses grip with reality.

There are no dull moments on this album. Each song is a small gem, from the bleak and hyper-heavy “Godless and Wicked”, to the hard rock accessibility of “Shadowland”, to the two short, evocative instrumentals “The Devil’s Waltz” and “Closing the Circle”. My favourite songs are the title-track and the closing piece “Perfect Dark”. The former is a sprawling epic that covers a lot of ground, traversing different moods and musical styles from its doomy first part to the proggy extravaganza that explodes halfway through the second half, in a way that reminds me of Arjen A. Lucassen’s best (and heaviest) work with Ayreon and Star One. As per its title, “Perfect Dark” is a perfectly dramatic conclusion to this awesome album. Foreboding, slow and sinister, it is powered by a massive crescendo where Jørn Lande is at its absolute best.

In summary, if you are a fan of progressive metal – especially its dark, melancholic variety – you simply must listen to this album. I struggle to find things to criticize (perhaps the sound production is a bit thin), or to pinpoint better records in the genre than this. Instantly enjoyable and with great repeated listen value, The Devil’s Hall of Fame is up there with the best music of Ayreon, Evergrey, and Kamelot. Beyond Twilight will go on to record two further albums, although Mr Lande will step down from his role as vocalist after this one. It’s a pity, as his vocals clearly play a big role in making this record such a masterpiece. But the quality of the music is really high too, so I very much look forward to listening to Beyond Twilight’s other two records as well.

EVERGREY A Heartless Portrait: The Orphean Testament

Album · 2022 · Progressive Metal
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With Escape of the Phoenix still hot off the press, dark metal maestros Evergrey are set to release a new full-length album, their 13th to date, on May 20th via Napalm Records. The writing of A Heartless Portrait (The Orphean Testament) started almost immediately after the release of Escape of the Phoenix, with the same line-up comprised of singer/guitarist Tom S Englund, guitarist Henrik Danhage, keyboard player Rikard Zander, drummer Jonas Ekdahl, and bass player Johan Niemann. Inevitably, the new album inhabits similar sonic territories as the previous one, to the point that in interviews frontman Tom S Englund jokingly referred to it as “Escape of the Phoenix Part II”. But if you are worried that the record’s 10 songs may just be leftover material from the Phoenix sessions, let me reassure you: although the two records share similar strengths and weaknesses, on balance A Heartless Portrait is even stronger than its predecessor.

Once a herald of dark progressive/power metal, over the years Evergrey have gradually morphed their sound into a highly developed form of modern metal, rich as much in melody as in heart-breaking melancholia. Nevertheless, the band’s prog metal heritage is still lurking there somewhere in the Swedes’ musical brains, and it helps them sidestep the cardinal sin of many modern melodic metal albums: an excess of emphasis on vocal melodies at the expense of musical substance. Evergrey combine the big, soaring melodies and simple song structures of the genre with a satisfying barrage of muscular riffs, sophisticated arrangements, and virtuoso leads and solos, which allow the music to be much more than mere background for the vocals. In a handful of tracks, the riffs and arrangements get really exciting, like the intricate guitar lines of “The Great Unwashed”, or the brilliant solo duels between Englund, Danhage and Zander on the title-track.

The high dosage of solos is probably one of the most striking and engaging aspects of this record. In nearly all songs, Englund and Danhage take turns to provide beautifully melodic and suitably virtuoso guitar leads, with Rikard Zander interjecting a few trailblazing keyboard solos in a couple of tracks too. It’s a nice touch that wasn’t perhaps so much prominent in Escape of the Phoenix and that brings me back to the “classic” ol’ metal sound of yesteryears. For the rest, most of the spotlights are on Englund’s beautiful and emotive vocal performance. The man has one of the most distinctive and instantly recognizable voices in metal: gravelly and powerful, yet warm, passionate and full of yearning. He is a spectacular singer, who can transform each melody into a heart-rending masterpiece.

The album contains several strong tracks, fuelled by inspired songwriting and excellent melodies. In fact, I am prepared to go out on a limb and say that some of the songs included here are among the best Evergrey have written throughout their whole career. The title-track is a muscular tour de force that takes heads on the listener with one of the heaviest episodes of the record, before softening into a beautiful middle-8 that paves the way for a fantastic trio of solos by Englund, Danhage and Zander. “The Great Unwashed” features a great, proggy riff and a strong chorus, while “Blindfolded” is a dark and brooding piece that creates a stark contrast with the serene, semi-acoustic album closer, “Wildfires”. You may have noticed that most of the songs I mentioned so far appear in the album’s second half. The first half also contains some good tracks (good luck in getting the chorus of “Call out the Dark” out of your head), but is somewhat weaker and less explosive than the second-half. Tracks like “Save Me”, “Midwinter Calls” and “Ominous” are in all respects decent and pleasant, but they sound a tad too generic and fail to stand out as much as other songs here. The same goes for “Reawakening” and “Heartless”, two tracks that veer dangerously close to the filler status.

This alternation between first-rate and second-rate songs is a frustrating feature of many recent Evergrey’s albums, and this one is no exception. Fortunately, the scale here is definitely tipped in favour of the better tracks, which is why I think A Heartless Portrait is a stronger album than its predecessor. However, looking at the bigger picture and putting the album in the context of Evergrey’s discography, I must say that A Heartless Portrait does not add much to the previous 3 or 4 releases by the band. This is Evergrey doing what they do best, without changing much their sound or taking any risks. When the music is as good as this, it’s hard to complain. Nevertheless, I am left slightly underwhelmed by this album, because I always look forward to being challenged by the music I listen to, especially when it comes from one of my favourite bands that I have been following for over 20 years now.

Ultimately, I suspect that how much you will like this record probably depends on how much you are bothered by listening to slight variations of the same musical formula album after album. If that is something that bothers you a great deal, subtract half star to my rating. If that does not concern you, add a full star. Regardless of the final score, A Heartless Portrait remains a top quality product from one of the most talented bands out there. In a market oversaturated with thousands of mediocre new releases, this cannot be but a highly recommended listen.

[Edited from original written for The Metal Observer]

GREEN CARNATION Light of Day, Day of Darkness

Album · 2002 · Progressive Metal
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Green Carnation’s 2000 debut Journey to the End of the Night was a difficult affair: a dark, hardly penetrable album, shrouded in pain and desperation, that only occasionally opened up to reveal the genius of Tchort’s musical ambition. Light of Day, Day of Darkness is where Tchort’s art finds its full expression, resulting in a masterpiece of dark progressive metal that any fan of cerebral, ambitious music should listen to at least once in their lifetime.

When you put this record in your CD player for this first time, two things jump at you: 1) the album duration is just above 60 minutes and 2) the album contains only one song. Yes, that’s right: Light of Day, Day of Darkness consists of one, 60-minute long song. Some of you will just write this off as pretentious crap – and there’s no denying that pretentious is a word not unheard of in the realms of progressive rock/metal. But Light of Day, Day of Darkness is the real deal. It’s where wild ideas and ambitions somehow, and miraculously, are pulled off.

For the occasion, Tchort gathered together a whole new set of musicians compared to the debut album: Anders Kobro (In The Woods…) on drums, Stein Roger Sordal on bass, Bjørn Harstad (also In The Woods…) on guitars and Kjetil Nordhus (Trail of Tears, then Tristania) on vocals, with Tchort himself also playing guitars. The list of guest musicians is also long, and includes vocalists Synne "Soprana" Larsen and Jan Kenneth Transeth (both In The Woods…), pianist Bernt Moen, saxophonist Arvid Thorsen, and producer Endre Kirkesola who played sitar, keyboards, strings and Hammond organ on the album. As it should be clear from the list of names and instruments, there is a lot of talent and colour on this record, with a myriad of instruments and sounds meticulously interwoven to realize Tchort’s vision.

The 60 minutes of the album can be roughly divided into two sections. The first 30 minutes develop around a slow-winding tempo and a repetitive, melancholic guitar riff that firmly root the song in gothic/doom territory. Kjetil Nordhus’ crooning vocals add a dramatic outlook to the music, with a beautiful, recurring melody that gives continuity to the song and creates a mellow, reflective mood, further heightened by interspersed clean guitar arpeggios and languid keyboard parts. The second part of the album is more experimental and progressive. It contains a long section with saxophone and female vocalizations, a children’s choir, some impassioned male vocals that reminds me of experimental band Manes, before the song ends in a gorgeous landscape of electronic sound effects with vocoder-filtered vocals.

Light of Day, Day of Darkness is an immersive listen. Although the monumental nature of this musical piece requires time and patience to be fully appreciated in all its nuances and details, strangely it also works well at an epidermal, instinctive level, as the gorgeous doomy riff and vocal melody that open the song return over and over throughout the composition, lulling the listener for its entire 60 minutes. The sheer ambition of this musical project is astonishing. It is even more impressive that Tchort managed to pull it off, creating an album that is filled with brilliant ideas, great performances and that works at multiple levels. I cannot say this of many records out there so if you are a fan of ambitious progressive music this is a “buy or die” kind of album.

Latest Forum Topic Posts

  • Posted 4 months ago in MMA Best of Year 2021 Voting Thread
    Soen - ImperialDold Vorde Ens Navn - MørkereSubterranean Masquerade - Mountain FeverSwallow the Sun - MoonflowersMoonspell - Hermitage Cradle of Filth - Existence Is Futile Transatlantic - The Absolute Universe (The Breath of Life)Therion - LeviathanIron Maiden - SenjutsuSeven Spires - Gods of DebaucheryLeprous - AphelionAt the Gates - The Nightmare of BeingHanging Garden - Skeleton LakeCynic - Ascension CodesEastern High - Halo Motorpsycho - Kingdom of Oblivion Evergrey - Escape of the Phoenix Iotunn - Access All Worlds Vola - WitnessKhemmis - DeceiverGaahls Wyrd - The Humming MountainHelloween - Helloween lukretion2022-01-17 14:58:48
  • Posted 1 year ago in MMA Best of Year 2020 Voting Thread
    Pain of Salvation - PantherAyreon - TransitusEnslaved - UtgardConception - State of DeceptionGreen Carnation - Leaves of Yesteryear Haken - VirusKatatonia - City BurialsIhsahn - TelemarkCaligula’s Horse - Rise RadiantDismal - Quinta EssentiaOceans of Slumber - Oceans of SlumberDool – SummerlandPsychotic Waltz - The God-Shaped VoidPyramaze - EpitaphOsyron - FoundationsSólstafir - Endless Twilight Of Codependent LoveDark Tranquillity - MomentThe Ocean - Phanerozoic II: Mesozoic / CenozoicHail Spirit Noir - Eden in ReverseGrayceon - Mothers Weavers VulturesJudicator - Let There Be NothingAdmin edit: the following have been removed due in ineligibility. Ihsahn - Pharos (Non-Metal)Acacia - Resurrection (2019) adg2112882021-01-27 06:50:38


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lukretion wrote:
1 year ago
Thank you! :-)
Tupan wrote:
1 year ago
UMUR wrote:
1 year ago
Great review and nice to see a new reviewer here :-)


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